What is a school trustee and what are his or her statutory responsibilities.


A school trustee is a member of a board, not a member of a parliament, and it is important for both trustees and the general public to understand that school board trustees hold no individual authority. The school board, as a corporate body, is the legislative source of all decisions, and individual trustees are granted no authority through the Education Act. Unlike provincial and federal parliaments, school board members do not vote according to an official “affiliation”, nor are there “governing” trustees and “opposition” trustees.

The Education Act provides clarity about the responsibility of individual trustees to bring to the board the concerns of parents, students and supporters of the board and to consult with them on the board’s multi-year plan. It is through the process of collaborating and engaging in joint decision making as members of the board that trustees work with the values, priorities, and expectations of the community to translate them into policy.

Once the board of trustees has voted, individual trustee members are legally bound by the majority decision, regardless of whether they supported it during debate or voted in opposition. They are required to uphold the implementation of resolutions passed by the board. Although they may not agree with the decision, trustees should be able to explain the rationale for the policy and ensure that it is understood, implemented, and monitored. Trustees who wish to explain a school board decision should do so in this context and express any divergence in their personal views in a manner that respects the decision-making authority of the collective board. It is clear that trustees carry a dual responsibility. This is recognized in the Education Act and was underscored in the Governance Review report (2009): As a member of the board, an individual trustee is expected to act within the board’s by-laws and be loyal to the board’s decisions. 

However, as elected persons, trustees are also expected to advocate for the interests of their constituencies. 

"Good Governance Guide: A Guide for trustees,School Boards, Director of Education and Communities, Chapter 3". www. cge.ontarioschooltrustees.org (accessed July 26,2018)